Tianmen Mountain is the highest peak in Zhangjiajie in central Hunan province, famous for its role depicting Montas Volans in Avatar. While most visitors climb to the top of the mountain for the breathtaking view, others summit the peak only to jump off and fly all the way back down to the bottom.
Zhang Shupeng (张树鹏) is one such brave soul: the world-record holder for longest wingsuit flight without oxygen, a record he set after a 8,150-meter (half-mile) flight in Inner Mongolia on April 26, 2015.
Zhang Shupeng in flight (from j.news.163.com)
Wingsuit Flying is viewed as ”the craziest of extreme sports,” and there are only around 600 people in the world who have the guts to try it. Zhang Shupeng, a former professional parachutist, picked up the sport with two and a half months of training. After winning the 5th World Paragliding Accuracy Championship in 2009 — he was the first Chinese pilot to do so — he set this new challenge for himself, according to a recently released video by Jianchang:
Equip myself with a wingsuit; jump from mountain tops, cliffs and buildings. Wheel, speed up, and slow down in the sky. Just enjoy the fantastic moment — this is how humanity’s dream of flying like a bird comes true.
Zhang Shupeng poses at a Red Bull event (via Sohu)
It’s obviously a high-risk sport (here’s a list of fatalities due to wingsuit flying, for the morbidly curious), but Zhang doesn’t agree with the claim that the sport has a death rate as high as 30%. “It depends on your mindset,” he says. Although he took second place in the 5th World Wingsuit Championship in September, he’s already started preparing for next year, and plans to become the next world wingsuit flying champion.
In the mean time, here’s a look at how he became the first person to rocket through a moving target over those Avatar mountains:
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam